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BLACK MOUNTAIN - Margaret Elizabeth Griffin Cogswell entered the Church Triumphant on Sunday, October 28, 2012, after celebrating her 90th birthday with family on October 11. Her life was defined by devotion: devotion to family, friends, community, church, and her 67 years with her husband, the Rev. Dr. James Cogswell. Her remarkable life of service to others was founded upon an unshakeable Christian faith; an extraordinary sense of commitment, duty and discipline; and a wellspring of love that nourished all the many hearts she touched.
Born in Richmond, Virginia on October 11, 1922, Peggy (as she was known to so many) met Jim in 1940 on the steps of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, where they both had been reared. She studied at the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, and after Jim's graduation from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, they were married on June 11, 1945. They applied for missionary service in Japan under the Board of World Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. While awaiting permission for new missionaries to enter postwar Japan, they served in organizing a new church in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and then pursued study at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, during which time Peggy served as secretary to the Department of Philosophy at Princeton University. After training in the Japanese language at the University of California in Berkeley, the Cogswells sailed for Japan in December 1948 with their one-year-old daughter Margaret Ann.
During their 13 years of service as evangelistic and educational missionaries, they participated in the founding of Shikoku Christian College (now Shikoku Gakuin University), taught at Kinjo Gakuin University in Nagoya, and worked in establishing and strengthening churches on the island of Shikoku and in the metropolitan area of Nagoya.
In 1960 (now with four children) they returned on furlough to the United States where in 1961 Jim was called to serve as Asia Secretary for the Board of World Missions in Nashville, Tennessee. Along with caring for their four children, Peggy worked as secretary to the Dean of Admissions at Peabody College, then at Vanderbilt University School of Law. In 1967, Jim was called to serve as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, where Peggy served not only as a pastor's wife, but also as school secretary at Franklin Elementary School. In 1971, Jim became Director of the World Hunger/World Service Program of the Presbyterian Church, U.S., moving the family to Atlanta. During this period, Peggy served as staff for the Board of Women's Work, PCUS; secretary to the Dean of Columbia Theological Seminary; secretary at Emory University School of Nursing; and secretary for Greater Atlanta Presbytery. She also served as an elder at North Decatur Presbyterian Church. Mindful of the beautiful as well as the practical, Peggy maintained a beautiful yard at their home in Decatur and enjoyed the fellowship and entertaining of many friends.
In 1984, the Cogswells moved to the New York area when Jim was called to be Director of the Division of Overseas Ministries of the National Council of Churches. Always seeking an avenue of service, Peggy had a position at the Graduate Theological School of Drew University in Madison, N.J. where they lived. Following retirement in 1988, the Cogswells returned first to Atlanta (where Peggy served as secretary to Decatur Cooperative Ministry), then in 1995 to Black Mountain, N.C. In 1999, following Peggy's heart attack, they became residents at the Highland Farms Retirement Community.
Peggy was witty as well as wise. Her subtle humor bubbled up everywhere from holiday gatherings to annual family reunions. Evening dinners at Highland Farms were not complete without Peggy's warm hello. Her accomplished children will cite her mix of tender and tough parenting as the foundation of their achievements. Peggy's children are Margaret Ann and her husband, Terry Kolb, of New York City, James Jr. and his wife, Sarah Stitt, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Sara and her husband, Will, South of Columbia, South Carolina, and Dan and his wife, Margaret Couch, of Asheville, North Carolina. She is the grandmother of six: Eli Wells of Mobile, Alabama, Anna Hodges of Greensboro, North Carolina, Will and Camille Cogswell of Asheville, David and Katherine Cogswell of Ann Arbor. She is also the great-grandmother of the newest addition to the Cogswell clan, two-year old Reid Hodges. Her two younger brothers, Roland and Thomas, predeceased her.
Throughout her life, Peggy was a devoted wife, a loving mother, a loyal friend, and a dedicated Christian who poured out her life for others. The memory of her grace, her kindness, and her unconditional love will resonate through the lives of her family and into a world always needful of those as compassionate as Peggy Cogswell.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Presbyterian World Mission Program, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202; or the Presbyterian Heritage Center, P.O. Box 207, Montreat, NC 28757. Messages of condolence may be sent to 200 Tabernacle Road, Apt. F-41, Black Mountain, NC 28711. A memorial service will be held at Black Mountain Presbyterian Church on Sunday, November 4, 1:30 p.m.
Published in the Asheville Citizen-Times on Oct. 31, 2012